Internet censorship in Mauritius. Myth or reality?

November 22, 2014

Recent events prompted me to think about it. What if tomorrow we wake up to find access to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter is cut off, completely barred and restrictions are made even to our online search? Would that be catastrophic? We can’t estimate its effect unless we have lived the moment. One may think that okay, I can live without Facebook or Twitter but it’s not just about living; it’s about the free circulation of information.

Internet censorship in Mauritius

In November 2007 Facebook was temporarily blocked by local Internet Service Providers following a notice by the ICT Authority. A press article1 mentioned the following:

L'on ne joue pas avec l'image publique du Premier ministre, Navin Ramgoolam. Facebook, le premier site communautaire au monde avec 46 millions d'adhérents, l'a appris à ses dépens. Son accès a été bloqué à tous ceux qui voulaient y accéder depuis Maurice pendant une partie de la journée hier.
Source: L'Express

« Facebook c'est ene poison »

During the past few weeks I noticed a surge in the use of social networks to share information pertaining to the Mauritius General Election 2014. Various videos emerged on YouTube and Facebook. People compared past and current statements/speeches as delivered by politicians. The same prompted strong disagreement coming from people in the political arena of Mauritius, saying “Facebook c’est ene poison2”, while one representative of ICTA mentioned actions will be taken “against” the person who holds a domain name similar to the one that the Government registered3.

Coming back to the press article of 2007, ICTA exercised its authority as per Section 18(m) of the ICT Act of Mauritius4. That section states the ICT Authority shall:

take steps to regulate or curtail the harmful and illegal content on the Internet and other information and communication services

It sends a dangerous message whereby the Government can exert pressure using legal tools. I participated in a Radio Debate in June 2014 regarding disputes over the MNIC project. During the debate when questioned about fines pertaining to refusal of giving fingerprints for the new Biometric ID Card it was mentioned5 that « a law exists since 1986 specifying a fine of a certain amount ». I recall this as being laws used whenever authorities need to justify or exert certain actions. While I agree laws for the protection of citizens are necessary, I find it unjustified for authorities to use same laws to bully innocent citizens, suppress the freedom of expression, harass the free press and so on.

Edit #1
Following an email in the Mauritius Internet Users[^6] discussion list, I decided to include Section 18(y) from the ICT Act as well. It says the ICT Authority shall:
« authorise or regulate the registration, administration and management of domain names for Mauritius »

Does it ring the bell? Imagine if my blog’s domain name registration was regulated by ICTA, would it still be “online” after I wrote about security vulnerabilities & reckless behavior of certain Government bodies?

​Can ICTA decide what domain name you can register and what not?​